A year ago the Giants were the headliners of the free-agent market. They dove into the pool head first and made a huge, $200 million splash.
That was nice. But don't expect it to happen again.
There are many reasons for that, not the least of which is the Giants just don't have the cap room to be free spenders this offseason. The $13.1 million in cap space the NFL Players Association says they have is the fifth-lowest total in the league. And considering 18 teams have $30 million or more to spend, even if the Giants restructured a few contracts or made a few more cuts, they're unlikely to get out of the Bottom 10
Which is fine, because the market is thin - and very likely overpriced - at their positions of need.
Last year was different. They were flush with cap room and there was plenty of defensive help on the market, and in a desperate attempt to get back to the playoffs they were willing to overspend. This year their feeling is they're better off sitting the initial, big-money wave out and see what bargains are left.
The tackle market is the best example of the flaws in this free-agent crop. The market is already crazy (see the Jets' $7.25 million per year deal for guard Brian Winters). And most of the available tackles will either be similarly overpriced or are damaged goods. Maybe the most attractive tackle for them is Cincinnati's Andrew Whitworth, but he's 35 and he could have multiple suitors even though he made $9 million last year and might not take much less.
Even tackle Russell Okung, a player often associated with the Giants because they brought him in for a free agent visit last year, could be prohibitively expensive. Last year, negotiating for himself, he negotiated a complicated deal with the Denver Broncos that turned out to pay him about $8 million for one year. Now, at 29, he's free again and he's looking for the big guaranteed money he didn't get last year.
With over $1 billion in cap space available among the 32 teams, he'll get it. And the prices overall will likely be as insane as ever.
The Giants, of course, have had success in the bargain bin before, finding good players to fill important roles at lesser prices. After last year's big splash - and coming off an 11-win season - that's likely what they'll do again. That's not a bad thing, either. They've never been afraid to spend, but smart shopping has always been what they've preferred.
Giants co-owner John Mara said the Giants are trying to sign Jason Pierre-Paul to a long-term deal, and there's no reason to doubt him despite a report out of the combine that the Giants had already decided not to.
Not trying to sign him wouldn't make much sense since a long-term deal could lower considerably the $16.9 million cap hit his franchise tag carries. Also, the Giants are going all-out to win a Super Bowl in the next three seasons and they want to keep their defense together as long as they can - not just for 2017.
Now, they may not be able to get that deal done. Sources on both sides say they haven't been particularly close on terms. And Mara told Newsday that a long-term deal with JPP will not pay him an average amount equal to his franchise tag. That could be a problem since a source said JPP had his eyes on the five-year, $85 million contract the Giants gave Olivier Vernon last offseason - which, by the way, is an average of $17 million per year.
So who knows where this will end up? JPP could end up playing the season on the tag, and a team source said the Giants would be OK with that. But they certainly will try to get that long-term deal done.
The Giants have made an effort to re-sign DT Johnathan Hankins, a source said, but it seems increasingly likely that he's going to test the market - and if he does, he's almost certainly gone. The feeling among NFL personnel people is that while he's not in Damon Harrison's class, he's young enough (25 in three weeks) and with enough potential that he could end up getting close to the deal Harrison got. Maybe not the full five years, $46.5 million, but something around $7-8 million a year seems about right.
A marriage between receiver Brandon Marshall and the Giants makes sense in every way but financial. He was going to make $7.5 million this season before he was cut, and word is he's not all that interested in going somewhere at a bargain rate. He won't have to, either. There's already "mutual interest" between him and the Patriots, according to The Boston Globe, and the Pats are sitting on about $59 million in cap room.
It's still not clear just how serious Adrian Peterson's flirtation with the Giants was on his end, but according to multiple sources it's mostly a one-way thing. Even though Giants coach Ben McAdoo said they'll "take a look" at the 32-year-old running back, they are not planning to pursue him. There's too much baggage there, from his age, to his knee injury, to the likely expense. And don't forget his domestic violence incident where he beat his young child with a stick.
The Giants are likely done with any major pre-free agency cuts, but it's a good bet something is done with LB J.T. Thomas at some point. He's still on the roster, heading into the last year of a three-year, $10 million contract and he's due to make $2.975 million in salary with a cap number of $4 million. Cutting him would clear $3 million in cap space.
Considering Thomas has played just 13 games in two seasons with the Giants, including only one last season due to a knee injury. At the very least, if the Giants bring him back, it will likely be at a drastically reduced salary.
Two Giants players got a (relatively) small bump in their 2017 salaries, presumably by hitting performance escalators in their contracts. LB Johnathan Casillas' salary jumped from $2.25 million to $2.75 million, according to NFLPA records, and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's jumped from $6.48 million to $6.98 million.
The two top tight ends in the draft - Alabama's O.J. Howard and Miami's David Njoku - would be serious candidates for the Giants at 23 if either of them are there, but given the importance of receiving tight ends in today's NFL offenses it's hard at the moment to see either of them being there.
That became even less likely when they - along with most of the tight end class - dazzled scouts at the combine. On the bench press, Howards did 22 reps and Njoku did 21. Then the 6-6, 249-pound Howard ran a 4.51 in the 40, and the 6-4, 246-pound Njoku ran a 4.64. Njoku also came close to the combine broad jump record by clearing 11 feet.